Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category


We are already getting close to finishing our first year with the homeschool choir.  We will be having our last performance in April and then will take a break for the summer.  (And one of our members will be graduating!  That is exciting!)

These kids have been great to work with.  They are always respectful and put forth their best effort.  They have done a great job putting together songs in our limited rehearsal schedule, and I am very proud of them.  I hope they have enjoyed this as much as I have!

We talked a little bit about plans for next year, and the kids have several things they’d like to try.  Some ideas tossed around were adding in instruments and maybe putting together a skit or two.  I think both of those ideas might work–these kids have proven that they will reliably practice outside of our class time, and that will help make those ideas a reality.

I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know these kids–they have been a real blessing!

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Homeschool Choir


This past summer I met with a group of homeschooling moms that were interested in starting a choir program.  We all thought it would be a lot of fun and a good opportunity for the kids to get together to share music, but trying to figure out the logistics of it all was the biggest obstacle.  These families are from all over Western Kansas and even stretch out into Colorado, so having regular practices is kind of complicated.  We decided to try to coordinate our practices with already-scheduled homeschool get-togethers that meet pretty much on a monthly basis.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure how well this would work, but I told them that I would be a part of it and would do my best to make it a worthwhile experience.

We split the kids into three “choirs”:  one for preschool through 2nd grade, one for grades 3 through 6, and then the last would be for students in grades 7-12.  Because my kids are all older, I agreed to take the oldest group.  I made rehearsal cd’s for the kids to use to learn parts on their own between rehearsals, but I really did not know what to expect.

Our first program was our Christmas concert.  Each choir did 2-3 songs, and we combined grades 3-12 for a fun final song.  I can’t tell you how much fun this all was!  The kids absolutely put forth their best efforts, and I was more than pleased with how they learned the parts using the cd’s.  That allowed us to work on things like cut offs, consonants, dynamics, and energy during the few rehearsals that we had together.  I am pretty sure the kids all enjoyed it; I had one teenage boy who only joined the choir because his mom said he had to, but by the end he came up to me and said that he really had fun singing with the group.  That made me pretty happy!

It also makes me happy that my own kids are excited for the second semester meetings of the homeschool choir.  We will start meeting again in January to learn some songs for a program in April.  These are great kids to work with, and I am looking forward to seeing how the spring semester goes!

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Lots Going On…..

Heartland Collage

This fall semester is flying by.  Sometimes it is hard to believe how fast my weeks pass.  I am writing this post on Thanksgiving Day.  We were planning to visit Dan’s family for the holiday, but there has been an ice storm that has kept us home this year.  And even though it is quiet, it is nice to have a few moments of rest before the craziness of the next couple of weeks begins.

So, what have I been doing?  Well, in addition to homeschooling my kids, I have been teaching music at the Christian school, leading a homeschool choir, teaching 20 music students weekly (in addition to my own kids), working on the Genesis board, and playing in the college band.  Each of these things has been an incredible blessing, but it seems like all of them are focusing to come together in the first two weeks of December.

So, in those two weeks I will have Christmas program rehearsals almost every day at the Christian school, we have a homeschool choir concert, a college band concert, the actual Christmas program, Cosette’s birthday, and the Genesis Christmas baskets all in a matter of a few days.  Throw in there that I am still going to be trying to fit in my lessons and being on the stocking crew for the food bank in December, and I think that I will have plenty to do!  I just hope I don’t forget something somewhere along the way…..

The homeschool choir has been a new addition into my schedule this year.  I wasn’t really sure how this would work considering the students come from all over the area and can only meet about once each month to practice.  I have made rehearsal cd’s for them to use between practices to help them learn their parts.  I have been surprised how well this has actually gone.  I have kids in grades 6-12, and they are all wonderful kids who do their absolute best.  That is a blessing.  Our first concert is in December.  We will have another one in the spring.

This is my second year of helping with the Christmas program at the local Christian school.  I can’t tell you how much I love doing this.  Yes, it takes a lot of time, but I love the kids and the teachers at the school, and it is incredibly rewarding.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything really.  We only will have a couple of weeks left to practice once we go back to school next week, so things are going to be pretty heavy and fast for a few days.  I’m sure I will have plenty of pictures to post of the wonderful kids that are in this program this year.

Another new thing this semester has been the college band.  Kara’s trumpet teacher felt that she had progressed enough on the trumpet to play some with the band.  Because this is such a great opportunity for musical growth, I decided to make it work into our schedule.  So, Kara is playing trumpet in the college band.  Cosette is also playing in the band–she is learning percussion and enjoys it a lot.  And since I have to drive the girls, I decided to break out my clarinet and join along too.  And, I must admit that it has been pretty fun.

Teaching music lessons continues to expand in my life as well.  It is such a blessing to have these people come in on a weekly basis and share music with me.  We haven’t had lessons for a couple of weeks because of the weather and Thanksgiving holiday, and I have missed having my students come!  😦  They’ll be back next week though!  🙂

So, things have been pretty crazy, but I am not complaining–I love everything I do.  God has given me many wonderful opportunities, and I am thankful for each one.  That being said, it is probably doubtful that I will get much more blogging done until Christmas break!  LOL!

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Map Collage 2

Right after Kara completed her A Beka Academy 6th grade adopt-a-tree poster, it was time to tackle her map poster project.  This is another project that Kara reaps the benefit from being my last child in 6th grade!  🙂  The trick to this project is using a projector to trace the image of the map.  Usually it takes several maps to get all of the required details filled in, but it works!  Over the years we found easier ways to make the icons, but the best upgrade we found was using a label maker to label the cities, geographic features, etc.  That is so much easier than trying to hand write everything!

So, what is Kara’s next project?  Her research paper–and she is just about finished with that.  She is writing her paper about Pearl Harbor.  She has her first draft finished, so she should have the whole thing finished by Christmas.  That’s the nice thing about 6th grade:  there are several projects, but they are all in the first semester leaving the second semester free to do things like musicals!  (hint, hint…)

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Karas Tree Collage

Kara is in 6th grade of A Beka Academy. Sixth grade is a transition year in many ways–the kids are moving from elementary school into jr. high, and it is a year with some interesting projects.  The first one that Kara completed this fall was her adopt-a-tree project.  We have always been fortunate when doing this project because of where Dan works.  He works at a university research station, and there are some unique trees  there for our area that our taken care of and labelled.  This makes this project so much easier than it otherwise could be!

Kara chose a silver maple at the station for her tree.  It took us several visits to remember to get all of the pictures and information that we needed to make her poster, but eventually we got it all done.  Kara does have one advantage over her siblings:  she is number five to do all of these school projects, and her Mom has learned a few things along the way to help the process go more smoothly!  🙂  (Poor John, we kind of struggled along the first time through these things!)

Kara is a very diligent student.  She is self-motivated to do her absolute best, and that is a blessing.

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2014-15 school Collage

Last week we began the 2015/16 school year.  This is the Prairie Family’s 14th year with A Beka Academy–hard to believe, isn’t it?!  This year we have grades 11, 9, 8, and 6.  John has graduated from high school and will be leaving to attend Kansas State University later this week.

Brock is a Junior in high school.  He’s following right along in John’s well-laid footsteps and does extremely well academically.  This will be an important year for him as he begins to more seriously consider colleges and what areas he may want to pursue.  He’ll also be taking the ACT in a few months, which is, of course, a big step towards the future.  A new thing for Brock is that he will be taking choir at the college.  John started that when he was a junior, and it was a good experience in many ways.  It helped to “bridge the gap” from homeschool into traditional settings, plus it was just neat to get involved with other kids to share music.  So, tomorrow is Brock’s first day at the college, and we are looking forward to many exciting opportunities for him in the days to come.

Cosette is a freshman–yes, a FRESHMAN!  🙂  She is taking the full load of regular A Beka Academy classes, and is doing very well.  She also has some new things to look forward to this year.  First of all, she is excited to be taking piano lessons from the same lady at the college that John has taken from for the last couple of years.  She had a few lessons with her this summer, and it is really neat to see her making tremendous musical progress already.  She can’t wait for the fall lessons to begin–taking lessons from this teacher will give her many recital and competition opportunities, and she is very excited.  She is thinking about participating in Scholar’s Bowl at the Christian School, but we’ll have to see how that all works out scheduling-wise.

Luke is in 8th grade which means he will do a real science project.  He already has a neat idea picked out, so that will be a fun adventure for him and me to have together.  He’s still involved with all of his music lessons, and we are planning to add him into more of our ensemble-work.

Kara is in 6th grade.  She was excited to finally retire the last of our big, outdated tv’s and to replace it with a nice, small, thin monitor that allows her desk to be pushed up to the wall like everyone else’s.  She is continuing to take trumpet lessons out at the college and improves every week.  She is looking forward to participating in the college musical again this year.

As for me, this year is going to be hectic and crazy.  In addition to our regular school stuff, I have around 16 students lined up for music lessons with a couple more coming in a few weeks.  I am also planning to help lead the Christmas program at Heartland Christian School again this year, so in late September/early October I will start meeting with the kids to get that prepared.  The local homeschool group is starting a choir this year and asked if I would be willing to lead grades 7-12, so that will be a new adventure as well.

Of course, going back to school for the Prairie Family means a serious return to music practice and performance.  We never really stopped over the summer, but it was pretty hit-and-miss at times, especially when I was painting the house.  Now we are back into the daily routine and that helps our consistency immensely!  We are going to be playing for the Gem Lions’ Club barbecue next week, so it is good (and necessary) to get back at it in a focused-kind-of-way.

Music Collage with text

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IMG_1056[1] With TextThis was the Prairie Family’s third year of writing the Readers’ Theater script for the summer library program.  This year was a little different from the previous two, however.  For the first two years we took mystery parties and adapted them for this format.  This year we started with nothing–nada–completely from scratch.

This year’s summer reading theme was “Every Hero Has a Story.”  We met with the children’s librarian in the late summer of 2014 to brainstorm ideas on possible scripts, and that was where this script had its beginnings.  We tossed around several ideas, but finally settled on some type of talent show or contest for superheroes.

The original writing group started out as John, Brock, and myself.  We spent time discussing possible scenarios and characters and eventually the basic structure of our story began to come together.  We decided that it would indeed be a “talent show,” the winners of which would be the stars of a new, amazing comic book series.  We developed some outrageous characters to audition for the roles of superhero and supervillain, and we were well on our way to having a script.  As we went along, a theme fell into place that ended up being pretty cool:  true heroes are found among common, ordinary people.

As the writing continued, John’s senior year of high school progressed and became busier and busier.  We both reached the conclusion that he would have to step back a little from the script to get his schoolwork done on time.  So, Cosette graciously took a couple of the characters that he had started and really did a great job working on her first script.  Her characters were definitely memorable and interesting–I guess she’s a natural writer!  John kept his other character and finished everything on time.  Brock wrote for three characters, and I wrote for the remaining three characters.

The library likes to have middle-schoolers do the program, so Kara and Luke were able to be involved in the actual production.  Luke played the part of Crash Cranium, a retired superhero who served on the panel to select the winners of the contest.  Kara played the famous opera singer, High N. Mighty, whose singing abilities could bring any evil villain to his/her knees! It was pretty fun watching the performance of the show.  It’s definitely interesting to see how the actors’ interpretations of the script add to the story.  Here is a picture of the authors enjoying the show: IMG_1061[1] with text

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Final Grade Collage with Text

Yes, it is official!  John officially completed all of his required coursework for A Beka Academy and graduated in May.  His senior year was pretty hectic, but he was very diligent to get all of his work finished on time.  He has been an excellent student, and we are all excited to see him go forward as the Lord leads him.

People often ask what John is planning to do next.  He will be attending Kansas State University beginning in August.  He is currently pursuing a math major with a music (piano) minor and is really looking forward to studying both areas.  He is exploring career options, and there is plenty of time for that.  As part of his math program, he will be taking a class this fall that discusses possible careers in math, and that will be helpful.  He’s actually going to have a pretty hefty first semester–he’s signed up for calculus, chemistry (with lab), expository writing, economics, choir, and piano.  He really wanted to take music theory, but they told him that class is reserved for music majors in the fall semester, so he’ll do that next spring.  His roommate is a Christian homeschool graduate, and they will be living in Goodnow Hall.

So, this is a summer of transition for John.  He has kept working away at the piano and has a job at Subway (where he is putting in a LOT of hours).  Many people have said that they sympathize with me–having my oldest son leave home soon and all.  But I don’t need sympathy!  🙂  I can honestly say that I am thrilled to see God leading John and know that He will care for him every step of the way.  Our whole purpose in being Christian parents is to raise these kids to follow God’s leading and then to rejoice as we see God fulfill HIS purpose in their lives.  We are blessed–truly blessed–and we are thankful!

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Roller Coaster Collage

Cosette had an interesting investigation for her first “real” science project.  She decided to build a model of a roller coaster loop-de-loop and then test a couple of different variables (one at a time).  She first tested how high the initial hill must be to successfully complete the loop, and then she tested different starting points along a set slope.  We all learned some things through this process.  We were all quite surprised that the initial slope must be quite sharp to make the marble complete the loop.  Also, the results were much more consistent than we had expected.  We thought there would be “levels” of completion, but we quickly discovered that the marble either did or did not complete the loops with the different variables mostly 100% of the time.  That made for a not-very-exciting result graph!  😦

John thought of a related project that would extend this project with more interesting results.  He suggested making a U-shaped track with cm marks along the ends.  Using those markings would enable good data to be gathered, such as how high the marble went with different starting points.

Cosette enjoyed making her display.  She loves all things artsy-craftsy, so this was right up her alley.  She did a good job picking coordinating, but not matching, patterned paper that made her display reflect the amusement park theme that she was looking for.

She also did a nice job putting together her oral presentation–I am attaching a video to this entry.

Getting these projects finished is always a major milestone in our academic year.  I am hoping to get a jump-start on next year’s projects this summer.  We’ll see how that goes….

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Downstairs with words Collage

I spent the last few weeks of my summer break switching rooms around in the basement, cleaning, painting, etc.  I had planned for several months to switch what was the music room with what was the room that John and Brock used for school.  I knew it would be no small task to accomplish, but we simply needed a larger room in which to practice our string ensemble.  Once we actually got started, it all went pretty smoothly, and I am so pleased with the results!  The music room is much more comfortable now, and is more easily used with my piano students who no longer have to wander through our main school room just to get to their lessons!  Now, they can just head down the stairs and go to the first room–much nicer for everyone!

The boys’ school room is working much better than I ever imagined as well.  It’s actually closer to the rest of our school activity, so I can keep better touch on what everyone is doing–very nice! 

I wasn’t going to paint the main room originally because, as you can imagine, it is quite a job because of its size.  In order to move our music room, though, we needed to install a door, and we also used that opportunity to widen a very narrow door in that main room.  That little bit of construction left walls that needed to be painted, so I just “bit the bullet”  and went for it.  Again, I am so glad that I did!  It cleaned everything up and made everything seem so fresh.  What a nice way to get started on a new year of school!

I cut it pretty close as far as getting everything finished and ready for our first day of school, but it all worked!  We have been back at work now for a couple of weeks, and things really could not be going any better.  It’s going to be a busy, busy school year–more about that in my next post.

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